Robot Wars was not a cool show, but it was a distinctly British one. Nerdy eccentrics from the Home Counties navigating crap remote-controlled tin heaps around BBC sound studios in far-flung locations such as Elstree and Leicestershire (the programme moved around a lot in search of a location that would suit its greasy, mechanical needs) while former football commentator Jonathan Pearce bellowed and whinnied about the utterly inconsequential events unfolding as they fought in the arena. It was the baffling enthusiasm that made this such an engaging show between 1998 and 2003, by which time it had featured a revolving coterie of presenters in the shape of Jeremy Clarkson, Craig Charles, Jane Middlemiss, Julia Reed and Philippa Forrester.
Well, Robot Wars is coming back. The Beeb has commissioned a new series of the battle-scarred light entertainment show, though there’s no news yet on whether ‘House Robots’ such as Sir Killalot, Matilda, Sergeant Bash or the descriptively named Shunt, who patrolled the arena in the hope of seeing off the home-made robots that came a-challenging each week, will return for the revival. It seems likely, as the provincial club circuit must be drying up by now. Anyway, there’s a clearly an appetite to see them again, if the plethora of YouTube clips from the show is anything to go by, and nostalgia shunts you sideways when Craig Charles, in his weird Matrix trilogy fancy dress, talks up long-forgotten contestants such as Hypno-Disc, Chaos 2, Panic Attack and Bigger Brother.
Before we take to our garages and dig out the angle grinders, let’s take a look back at some of Robot Wars‘ greatest battles and wonder how this ridiculous show managed to stay off air for 13 years.
When Detonator Got Stuck On A Spike, Lynn
It’s quite delicious to consider the moment that this most Alan Partridge of shows featured a contestant unwittingly imitating the Norwich DJ and getting stuck on a spike. Yes, this fate befell poor Detonator, controlled by a couple of school children and their teacher, David, as their tin-pot creation not only failed to get across the obstacle course but barely even escaped the start line. Best bit: contestant and backseat driver David tearing his hair and out and looking like a man who’s about to dish out two quite lengthy detentions. The tragedy unfolds from 8.18 mins.
When Sergeant Bash Went Postal On The Bloody Referee
Bash looks kind of like a tank slug and was a real bad bugger among the House Robots, yet never more so than when he took on Refbot with his flamethrower, utterly and unequivocally outraging Pearce, who spluttered: “OH! YOU CAN’T DO THAT! Quite right, yellow card, warning. I’d have given a red, I’d have BANNED it!” By the end of the tussle Pearce had come round the idea and was in the throes of ecstasy as he cackled: “HAHAHAHA! The House Robots having an argument! I LOVE IT!”
When The ‘Robot Rebellion’ Made Literally No Sense
The House Robots were allowed to navigate the entire arena during each ‘Robot Rebellion’, a strange ritual that was basically a free-for-all as competitors of the week attempted to push, shove and flip them on their own turf. There’s one reason this clip has earned its place on the list: Craig Charles. It’s both hard and deeply heartening to believe that a grown man could get so excited about the antics of some remote controlled toys, and yet he treats the hokey script like it’s Shakespeare, tapping into his inner Iago as he sneers: “Some of the roboteers have long memories and they whinge in the pits. ‘Sir Killalot did this to me, Shunt did that to me and Bash burned my tyres.‘… BRING ON THE ROBOT REBELLION!”
When The Godfather of Robot Wars Was Like A Steam Punk Steve Jobs
The Final of the First World Championships in 2000 saw a robot called Razer battle a robot called Behemoth, but that’s not the story here. The story of this epic is a dual narrative, the first concerned with Pearce picking out one of the roboteers and saying conspiratorially: “Vincent Blood there, there at the bottom of your picture, you know what he’s like. Ever had a dinky toy when you were a kid? Vincent when he was seven built a car crusher TO DESROY THEM! That’s what he’s like .” Even more chilling was our introduction to Robot Wars consultant and “Godfather” Marc Thorpe, who cuts and icy, totalitarian figure in his black polo neck. He bafflingly intones: “I’ve always thought of Robot Wars as an art-sport.” Err, yeah, whatever you say, Marc.
When Jonathan Pearce Lost His Shit And Got A Bit Kinky
The semi-final of Series Six of Robot Wars: Tornado V. Hypno-Disc. The former is a formidable slab of steel but, warns Pearce, is blighted by “an unrelibable drive tray”. The latter has a spinning disc for a weapon and became the first official Robot Wars toy. So this was always going to be a climactic showdown, but Pearce really gets carried away with himself, promising “some of the hottest action ever seen”, insisting it really is “red hot” and later leering that “Hypno-Disc is TAKING SOME PUNISHMENT!” Have a cold shower, Jonathan. Have a series of cold showers.